Cambridge mosque gets first full-time imam and missionary

Fatir Mahmood Ahmad says it's a weird time to begin his new role, but he is excited to be the first full-time imam and missionary posted to the Bai'tul Kareem Mosque in Cambridge.

Imam Fatir Mahmood Ahmad will lead 500 members of Bai'tul Kareem Mosque

Imam Fatir Mahmood Ahmad becomes the first full-time Imam and Missionary at Bai'tul Kareem Mosque. It his first appointment leading the Muslim community that serves 500 members from Cambridge as well as Guelph, Waterloo and Kitchener. (Submitted by Nabeel Rana)

Fatir Mahmood Ahmad says it's a weird time to take on his new roll as full-time imam and missionary at the Bai'tul Kareem Mosque in Cambridge.

Ahmad says because of COVID-19, he has not physically been able to meet with the 500 members of the mosque who come from Cambridge, as well as Guelph, Waterloo and Kitchener.

"It's only been a month for me. So it's it's quite challenging, to be honest, because obviously, you know, the world's crazy nowadays," said Missionary Ahmad.  "I am very excited on my first formal appointment. I look forward to working in Waterloo region."

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Waterloo Region first opened the mosque in Cambridge and 2006 and renovations to remodel the building were completed last year.

In the past, the mosque sought spiritual guidance from imams in London and Windsor who travelled to the region. Ahmad was named the first formal full-time missionary and imam earlier this month.

Calling to religious life

Ahmad was born in England and raised in Vancouver where he says the calling to a religious life started in high school. He describes himself as a normal kid who played sports and says "the soccer team was my crew."

"But we used to go in our community, the Muslim community.  And I also used to go there during the evening time for prayer and for the programs. I basically thought, do I like the high school life better or do I like this spiritual life better?" Ahmad said.

"I was really interested in spirituality and whether there's a higher being," he added. "Religious studies, also was very interesting to me. As a human, if there's a higher power, then our purpose, our primary purpose of life would be to recognize the higher power and to serve mankind."

Ahmad, who is 26 years old, received seven years of religious training at the Jamia Ahmadiyya Islamic University in Maple, Ont., before training as a missionary in Africa, the United Kingdom and Pakistan.

In those countries, Ahmad said he observed and helped.

Waterloo region has different challenges than Africa or Pakistan, he says, and he is interested in working on social youth issues including mental health, drug abuse and homelessness while following the two basic principles of Islam.

"We go with the model of love for all, hatred for none. And we're here basically to serve in any capacity that we can,"  Ahmad said. "It's regardless of ethnicity or race or gender or religion. We're here to serve all of humanity."

Virtual connection

Ahmad says COVID-19 has led to the community to limit the number of people at the mosque on Elliot Road and they have asked people over the age of 65 and youngsters not to come visit the building for now.

Friday prayers are physically held at the mosque but all other gatherings including classes for children and presentations for adults are done virtually.

"The regular prayers are also in the mosque," said Ahmad. "But you have to bring your own prayer mat. You have to bring your mask. Many people are still hesitant to come ... We're encouraging people that they not come if they feel they will put their family at risk."